TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida leaders, at the local and state levels, joined federal officials Friday to announce they are working together to protect the state's election systems from foreign interference.
The Florida Department of State, county supervisors of election, the U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security don’t want a repeat in 2020 of the 2016 election, where at least two undisclosed county election systems in Florida were breached by hackers.
They are asking the public for assistance in rooting out those who are attempting to weaken confidence in the voting process. FBI Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas says cybercriminals continue to get more sophisticated each election cycle.
“We have yet to see any attacks manipulate or delete election and voter related data, or take election management systems offline, but we know our adversaries are relentless,” Rojas said.
The state of Florida recently completed its own cybersecurity review following disclosures of Russian hacking during the 2016 elections. However, details of what was found remain under wraps, along with information about system patches and what further multimillion-dollar steps are being taken to protect against future attacks.
Secretary of State Laurel Lee says the multi-agency collaboration is one way to stay ahead of the criminals this year.
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“Since 2016, our state has chosen to invest millions and millions of dollars in bolstering, enhancing and strengthening our state’s elections network. Moreover, we have developed lines of communications and partnerships so that state election officials aren’t standing along and county election officials aren’t standing alone,” Lee said. “We don’t simply work within our individual agencies. Every day, we work together, between the local supervisors, the Department of State, our state law enforcement partners and the federal authorities.”
Additional election security funding was approved during the 2019 legislative session, and applications for those dollars are being processed now. The money will be doled out to local election supervisors, in an effort to address any vulnerabilities that may be identified in the coming months.
“We want the people of Florida to know that their government, their whole government, local, state and federal levels, will maintain the integrity of their election system," the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, Larry Keefe said.
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